In Case You Missed It

At his personal blog, Art Rainer shared what could be the worst goal to pursue in 2017.

What are you going to chase in 2017?

If it’s on the leadership level, what mountain are you going to ask your team to climb with you? If it’s on the personal level, what in your life do you want look different 365 days from now?

 

In my last post on goals (5 Reasons You Can’t Avoid Goal-Setting), I pointed out what characteristics make up really good goals. They are S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. These are the types of goals you want to pursue over the next twelve months.

 

So what characteristics would make up really bad goals? What does the worst goal to pursue in 2017 look like? How can you spot one? S.M.A.R.T. goals can provide us some guidance.

 

Here is how the worst goal to pursue in 2017 will present itself

 

At The Intersect Project, Meridith Berson discusses the virus of moral superiority. Meridith writes:

The past election cycle was hard on this country. For starters, it was long. The Republican primary debates started in early August of 2015, leaving us with fifteen grueling months of a politically charged news cycle. As a country we watched as the various Republican candidates spared, dropped out and endorsed or denounced their peers.

 

We then watched as a left-wing Independent from Vermont began what was dubbed as a revolution, aimed at taking the Democratic Party further left than it was accustomed. The reactionaries in the Party then pivoted to bring this wing into their fold. While it was a calculated attempt to reunite the party, it left the remnants of the revolution confused and alienated.

 

Somewhere in the midst of the unfolding drama, the voters spoke and the results yielded two opposites. One was a carefully calculated, and seemingly handpicked, candidate. Her name had been circulating in political circles for longer than most Millennials — the base she desperately needed — had been alive. She came across as scripted, elitist and, for many, the paradigm of corruption. Yet, there she was, the representative of the party that presents itself as the caretaker of the marginalized, the party that fights inequality, the party of the people.

 

Bruce Ashford shared five reasons for atheists to join Christians in church this Christmas.

Earlier this month, American Atheists launched two nationwide billboard campaigns urging Americans to celebrate the holidays by skipping church. The first billboard depicts a text message exchange in which one young woman tells a friend that she plans to skip church during Christmas and that her parents will “get over it.” The second billboard parodies President-elect Trump’s campaign slogan, urging Americans to “Make Christmas Great Again!” by skipping church.

 

In an interview explaining the billboard campaign, American Atheist President David Silverman said, “It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe—and don’t believe—is the best gift you can give this holiday season.”

 

While we are a little confused by Silverman’s apparent delight in fantasizing about family division during the holidays, we agree with Silverman that openness and honesty are good things and, in that spirit, we offer a few reflections.

 

At the Baptist Press, Micah Fries, Nathan Finn, and Jon Akin shared an open letter discussing the need for cooperation amid SBC tensions.

Controversy surrounding ethicist Russell Moore’s past comments on President-elect Donald Trump has led three Tennessee Baptists — all under the age of 40 — to issue an open letter calling “the [conservative] resurgence generation and their protégés” to “be the statesmen we need them to be in this season of denominational tension.”

 

Jonathan Akin, Nathan Finn and Micah Fries wrote in a Dec. 21 open letter provided to Baptist Press, “Now isn’t the time for acrimonious debates over secondary and tertiary doctrinal matters,” such as the extent of the atonement, church polity, methodology and the appropriate means of cultural engagement.

 

They directed their comments especially toward Southern Baptists who led the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s as well as those mentored by that generation, noting, “Our real enemy is the Prince of Darkness.” The resurgence attempted to make biblical inerrancy a bedrock commitment of Southern Baptist Convention entities.

 

At his blog, Chuck Lawless shared 10 gift ideas which do not cost money. Dr. Lawless writes:

Christmas can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, we usually give gifts that don’t last anyway. This Christmas, give one of these gifts to someone.

In Case You Missed It

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently shared a visual tour of the History of Ideas in the form of some of his student’s timeline projects.

One of the great privileges of my life has been the opportunity to teach History of Ideas at The College at Southeastern. Under the leadership of noted author and philosopher James K. Dew, the college requires its undergraduate students to take four courses in the History of Ideas.

 

The first History of Ideas course is a lecture-style grand tour of the rise and development of “thought,” of the way certain ideas have shaped our world, especially in the West. I teach this course and I lead the students to evaluate various ideas and ideologies in light of their logical coherence, empirical adequacy, and existential viability. But we also evaluate them from a distinctly Christian perspective, in light of Scripture and the Christian tradition.

 

During the course, I require my students—almost all of them freshmen—to create a “History of Ideas Timeline,” a sort of visual tour of the history of ideas. This year, several of those students did such a good job that I decided to post their timelines here on my website.

 

Steven Madsen shared a post at his personal blog discussing the difference between just knowing about Jesus and truly knowing Jesus and experiencing a relationship with Him.

Have you ever thought about the massive claims of Christianity?  “There is One God who created all things”, “God became man & dwelled among us”, “Jesus was crucified, buried, & resurrected, becoming the atonement for sin”. Even more so, “the God of the universe wants to know you, personally”, and “He loves you deeply”.  And what about the words of Jesus Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The weight of these statements cannot be overstated.  In fact, if true, these assertions are of eternal importance! All of history & every existing thing hinges on the claims of Christianity.  That’s big.

 

Its 2.2 billion, big.  Christianity is the largest religion in the world, making up nearly one-third of the world’s population. Or so the statistics say.

 

And there lies my question.  If one-third of the world claims Christianity why isn’t it more…noticeable?

 

For years I asked this question of myself.

 

Earlier this week, Chuck Lawless shared eleven reasons to love the senior adults in your church. Dr. Lawless writes:

Occasionally, I speak in a church that is predominantly senior adults. Each time I do, I think about how a church like that is going to survive – but I also remember why senior adults matter. Remembering these things reminds me to love them even as we make changes to grow the church.

 

Art Rainer posted an article this week discussing if pastors should give to their church.

God has designed us, not to be hoarders, but conduits through which His generosity flows.

When we give to our local church, we get to participate in all the amazing ministry God is doing through the church. It is a place of significant impact. He uses your generosity to your church to make a difference in the lives of those in the church, in your community, and around the world.

 

But what about the pastor of a church? Should he give to the church he pastors? It is a question many ask. His salary is derived from gifts given to the church. So if he gives back to the church, isn’t it just creating an unnecessary giving loop?

 

The quick answer is yes, the pastor should give to his church. Here are a few reasons why.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax recently shared some things to consider before going for a Ph.D.

In December of 2015, I graduated from Southeastern Seminary with a Ph.D. in theology (with a focus on North American missiology). I’ve written before that the Ph.D. experience was one of the most demanding and rewarding of my life. It stretched me in ways that escape easy description.

 

The stamina that is required to persevere through the dissertation phase is enough to sidetrack a number of great scholars, and I now understand why I have friends and colleagues who have done everything necessary for their doctorate except finish their final dissertation. Just imagine. You come to the end of seminars and papers and comprehensive exams, only then to begin work on something that will require 100,000 words of writing and literally millions of words of reading. It’s enough to send shivers down the spine of the most committed student.

 

Earlier this week, a friend who is about to enter a Ph.D. program asked me a few questions about how I managed that season of life.

 

I hesitate to answer because, first, I’m not sure that I always managed it well or in an exemplary way. And secondly, because we are all different, we have different gifts and responsibilities. To say “here’s what you should do” seems woefully ill informed if not designed for someone’s unique situation. It would be much better to work with the people who know you and your situation best—your wife, your family, your church—to get specific answers on most questions.

 

But what I can do is offer some counsel based on what worked well for me.

 

In Case You Missed It

In a recent article at Outreach Magazine, Drs. Danny Akin and Bruce Ashford shared 6 marks of Great Commission people.

Paul wrote the book of Romans to a church he did not found and had not yet visited. David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, calls it an extended missionary fundraising letter! In Romans 15 he tells the Romans straight out, “I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you” (v. 24). In other words he wanted them to be on mission with him as he was a good neighbor to those who, as far as he knew, had never heard the gospel.

 

In Romans 15:14–24, Paul puts forth six marks of a Great Commission people. He describes the essence of a Great Commission people, explores the breadth of God’s mission, and then emphasizes the urgency of the Great Commission call among God’s people.

 

Let’s explore these six marks.

 

Dr. Andreas Köstenberger published an article at Desiring God explaining why we celebrate Advent. Dr. Köstenberger writes:

Christians, and even non-Christians, around the world celebrate Christmas as the day when Jesus, the Messiah, was born in a stable in the little Judean town of Bethlehem. Whether Jesus was born on December 25 or not, his birthday has easily become the most widely celebrated in history.

 

But what about Advent, the four weeks preceding Jesus’s birth? Do we really have any need to commemorate the buildup to the day on which Jesus was born?

 

Survey the birth narratives of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, as well as the prologue of John’s Gospel, and you’ll see that the Messiah’s coming was heralded from long ago in the writings of the prophets, and even in the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses). This shows that Jesus’s arrival was eagerly anticipated by many in first-century Palestine.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared the story of the Christmas hymn G. K. Chesterton’s wife gave us.

In 1917, near the end of first world war, G. K. Chesterton’s wife, Frances, wrote the song “How Far Is It to Bethlehem?” It was published in the 1928 Oxford Book of Carols. Her biographer, Nancy Carpentier Brown, explains the significance of the song and reads several of the lyrics in light of the Chesterton’s struggle with infertility.

 

This week at his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared seven Great Commission reflections on the death of Fidel Castro. Dr. Lawless writes:

I was born in 1961, so I have known only a time when Fidel Castro was influencing Cuba, primarily as that country’s leader. He died last night at the age of 90. Here are a few thoughts about his death that Christ-followers should keep in mind.

 

Courtlandt Perkins shared an article at The Center for Great Commission Studies titled: “Lottie Moon: Casting a Four-foot Shadow Around the World.

If you are Southern Baptist, then Lottie Moon is a name you should know. She may have been small in stature, just over four feet tall, but she left a huge legacy. Lottie served as a international missionary for 39 years in China in the late 1800s. During that time, she became a champion for missions support. What started as her initiative of encouraging women back at home to raise annual support funds for overseas work has turned into the biggest annual missions offering in the world.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently shared a list of 12 books on missions he recommends for pastors, students, and churches.

The Christmas season is inextricably intertwined with Christian missions. Jesus was born in a manger so that one day he could suffer on a cross, be raised in victory, and commission his people to make disciples of the nations. For that reason, some denominations even plan their annual missions offering to coincide with the Christmas season.

In light of this connection between Christmas and missions, here are a dozen (or so) resources I recommend to pastors, professors, and students. I will describe each book and then rank its level of difficulty on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult. Level 1 is the category for a book you could give to any friend or family member. Level 5 is the category for a book more appropriate for a graduate student or a pastor who enjoys a challenge.